Memo: Dealing with the Unfortunate Disclosures in Germany
To: The President
It now seems clear that, for political reasons of their own, our German friends are determined to persist in their absurd public objections to our perfectly normal intelligence gathering. (After all, if they’re not up to something bad, why do they need secrecy?) This is giving us considerable unfavorable publicity, so a public response from the US Government, possibly from Yourself, seems warranted.
In our view, this response should include a declaration in the format of Denial of the Obvious Form 27C, such as: “We have not in recent times and will not in future conduct any espionage operations in Germany.”
This leaves two Disputation Points in the event of further disclosures: namely the precise meaning of “recent times,” and whether or not buying a few classified documents – from a possibly deranged source that were purchased only in order to check their authenticity – can properly be considered espionage.
We feel that a less satisfactory option is a use of Insincere Promise for Public Consumption Form 14Q, such as: “It is clear that a few of our personnel exceeded their instructions and carried out activities that we had not intended. We are therefore instituting a rigorous revision of intelligence-gathering rules to ensure that an incident like this can never happen again.”
This course would mean that no further action was required for several years, if ever, but has the disadvantage of implying a failure in command supervision somewhere higher up the line. This could even require a sacrificial firing/resignation, which can be expensive, especially if the scapegoat is one of the sort who might be inclined to complain publicly.
Our evaluation, however, is that something further will be required in addition to either of the two above courses. It may well be necessary to promise, and even eventually implement in some degree, changes in the structure and/or function of an institution of some sort (see Pretending to Change Form 19K-3).
The most suitable candidate for such institutional change is probably the Federal Intrusive Surveillance Court (FISC). Because nearly everything about this Court is an official secret, it will be difficult or impossible for anyone to know whether any of our announced changes are actually carried out; journalists who inquire too closely can probably be indicted under the Espionage Act. (It might be worthwhile amending the FISA legislation to allow FISC itself to bring an indictment if it feels its operations are jeopardized by journalistic prying.)
For example, we could announce that FISC will not authorize any surveillance of friendly foreigners, except incidentally to the surveillance of suspect American citizens. To indicate the seriousness of this change, FISC could have its name changed slightly, perhaps to Federal Innocence Special Court or Foreign Reliable Intelligence Surveillance Kangaroo-court (the latter makes a nice acronym, but we would need to check with Australian friends as to whether it might be considered offensive).
Even the above concessions may be insufficient to persuade the present German government to desist from its public exposure of our intelligence activities. Should that possibility eventuate, we will want to have an alternative prepared. We therefore recommend the signing of a Top Secret Presidential Regime Change Finding Form 66R. This can be rescinded if the Germans prove reasonable, or implemented immediately if they find out and publicize our other activities.